RAF carried out four airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq ‘after militants stepped up their attacks amid coronavirus’
- The air strikes came after ISIS carried out attacks across north east Iraq
- In one night in May, the extremists killed nine people across three provinces
- Officials, politicians, and security forces have been preoccupied with Covid-19
- The RAF attacked ISIS strongholds for the first time in seven months in April
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
The Royal Air Force carried out four airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq during May after the militants stepped up attacks while authorities were busy managing the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Ministry of Defence.
The MOD increased their attacks on the Islamist group since April, when the RAF carried out two aerial bombardments over Iraq – the first in seven months.
The redeployment of Typhoons and drones to target the extremists came shortly after ISIS activity increased near their strongholds in north-eastern Iraq.
In one night at the start of May, the militants killed four tribal militia fighters and three soldiers across three provinces.
Local officials, armed forces and politicians have been focussed on preventing the spread of the virus, giving the extremists ample opportunity to carry out attacks, experts have argued.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the strikes, the first of which took place on 8 May, showed the UK was prepared to protect its allies.
File photo dated 03/12/15 of an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus
Pictured: An aerial photograph shows the explosion after one of the air attacks hit its target in northern Iraq
An Iraqi fighter with the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces) inspects the site of the Islamic State (IS) group attack, a day earlier, on a unit of the paramilitary force in Mukaishefah, about 110 miles north of the capital, on May 3, 2020
Yesterday, ISIS called the pandemic divine punishment from God and said they were glad it had been inflicted on the West.
In an audio broadcast posted on one of the militants’ websites, which could not be verified by Reuters, the person on the tape identified himself as IS spokesman Abu Hamzah al-Quraishi.
‘God, by his will, sent a punishment to tyrants of this time and their followers … which can’t be seen by the naked eye,’ he said, in an allusion to the COVID-19 disease.
‘Today we are pleased for this punishment of God for you.’
It was the Sunni Muslim group’s third such tape since appointing Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as new leader following the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by U.S. special forces in northwestern Syria late last year.
It was the Sunni Muslim group’s third such tape since appointing Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi as new leader following the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (pictured in 2019) by U.S. special forces in northwestern Syria late last year
Quraishi urged IS fighters ‘everywhere to prepare whatever strength they could and be as hard as they could on the enemies of God and to raid their places,’ according to the tape.
‘Don’t let a single day pass without making their lives awful.’
He gave no specific targets but mentioned countries where the group is active such as Syria and Iraq as well as western Africa.
IS has struggled to regroup and develop new strategy since the killing of Baghdadi. It lost its last significant piece of territory in Syria last year after already being defeated in Iraq.
The SITE Intelligence Group monitoring website said the tape looked authentic. ‘IS spokesman echoes jihadi sentiment of COVID-19 being divine punishment,’ it said.
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